tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC December 1, 2010 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
tonight on "world news," drowning in debt. the panel trying to end the deficit releases its plan. what would they cut and what would they save? dangerous storms. december off to a wild start. tornadoes, thunder and torrential rain. diet duel. lawmakers arguing over cupcakes? how much should the government do to get kids to eat right? and dan and dan. our dan harris, and the iraqi boy named dan he tried to hard to help. a personal journey with a twist that changed both their lives. good evening. we begin with four words
designed to get the attention of every american. the moment of truth. it's the title of the wakeup call released today by the president's commission designed to get the united states out of debt. it is a document filled with tough choices and painful proposals to rein america's now runaway debt. the chairman of the panel say now is the time to act or this crisis could destroy america from within and jake tapper has been going through all the details in the report tonight. >> reporter: that's right, diane. this report constitutions one of the starkest warnings yet and the prescriptions will be tough for the public to swallow, and even more difficult, perhaps, for politicians to support. the co-chairs of the president's debt commission issued a stark warning today. >> this debt is like a cancer. it is going to destroy us from within. >> reporter: u.s. faces risking the kind of economic catastrophe in europe, they said. >> it doesn't happen as a slippery slope. it doesn't happen in six months. it's dramatic. >> reporter: arguing that the
nation can no longer continue to ignore its $13.8 trillion national debt and this year's projected $1.3 trillion deficit. the chairmen recommended raising the social security retirement age from 66 to 69 by the year 2075, increasing the payroll tax for the wealthier recipients and reducing their social security benefits, increasing the gasoline tax by 15 cents per gallon beginning in 2013, eliminating or reducing tax deductions for individuals such as for mortgage interest, freezing medicare payments to doctors through 2020, and cutting the government workforce true attrition by 10%, or by 200,000 employees. to be considered, the official report of the commission, the report needs the support of at least 14 of the group's 18 members in a vote scheduled for friday. two key members endorsed it today. >> while there are things in this plan i dislike intensely, i don't see another alternative. >> reporter: senator
kent conrad, the democratic chairman of the senate budget committee was joined by his republican counterpart senator judd gregg. >> we either as a nation govern or we risk losing our greatness. >> reporter: gregg, however is retiring. two members from both sides of the aisle who are not retiring gave the report a thumbs down. >> i cannot, for the reasons of equity, support this proposal. >> i do not believe this sufficiently fixes the health care problem. and guess what? our debt problem is the health care problem. >> reporter: commission co-chair alan simpson today acknowledged that his report may soon go into a coffin, but he predicted it will rise from the crypt in the spring when members of congress vote again on raising the debt limit and on funding budgets well beyond the nation's means. >> jake, they have known this was coming. they have known it was coming. what's going to happen when they get to the vote on friday? >> reporter: well, it might not pass but there is some talk between the president and the republican leader in the senate that they might still use it as a template for deficit reduction votes in the future.
but i wouldn't hold your breath. >> not even the discussion, necessarily, in the near future. so, why not? what about these inflamed issues, social security, medicare, defense spending? we have a fact check tonight, because we wondered, would two people from opposite ends of the spectrum, two experts agree that even these have to be on the table? david muir has been checking these facts. >> reporter: diane, as jake points out, the proposals, very tough pills to swallow. we reached out to two previous administrations, economists who advised presidents bush and clinton. and we asked this -- if you really want to bring down the deficit, can any of these big ticket items really be avoided? first, that recommendation to slowly increase the retirement age for social security, and to reduce benefits? as unpopular as that might seem, we asked, is there any way to avoid changes to social security and still cut the deficit? no. >> social security is part of the problem. >> reporter: gregory man cue advised president bush and said
simply today that this proposal makes sense. and so did jeff frankel, who held the same job in the clinton administration. >> it's just, we can't afford it. >> reporter: economists say, look at the pie chart at our spending. social security and then medicare, a bite as big and growing. today, that bold call to limit the annual increases in medicare, and we wondered, is there any way to avoid it? can medicare be left untouched? and still rein in this deficit? >> oh, no. >> reporter: an even bigger problem because of the aging baby boomers. and, again, we heard agreement from president clinton's adviser. >> there is no way to rein in the deficit without slowing the rate of medicare spending. >> reporter: and back at the chart, look at defend spending next. considered untouchable by many, so, again, we asked both sides, do you have to cut defense spending to cut down the deficit? both said yes. >> first thing you should look at, don't buy anything that the defense department doesn't want. >> we spend money on weapons systems that the pentagon doesn't want.
>> reporter: saying virtually the same thing there. two advisers to two different presidents, bush and clinton, both agreeing on the cuts to social security, medicare and defense spending, diane. did you ever think you would hear a democratic administration, a republican administration, agree on these? >> shows something about how alarming this deficit is right now. thank you, david muir. and, we have a note tonight about sobering words today from a top u.s. security official, who is the director of the national counterterrorism center. he acknowledged that preventing attacks is getting more and more difficult. >> i'll speak for the entire counterterrorism community. we aim for perfection. perfection will not be achieved. just like any other endeavor, we will not stop all the attacks. >> and again, he said when an attack gets through, of course, lives will be lost. it is the great fear in the u.s. counterterrorism effort. turning next to the deadly weather affecting millions of americans tonight. we know the saying that march
comes in like a lion, but today it was december roaring in. furious storms, even tornadoes cutting a path up the east coast. steve osunsami, out on a very bad day. >> reporter: outside atlanta today -- >> just come flying in the house. >> reporter: they're frustrated, wet and digging out from the storm system that's now killed at least four people and is tearing its way across the east. this happened as you were running to the door? since monday, three or the nay domes have ripped through neighborhoods in mississippi, louisiana and georgia. tammy o'connor says she and her children were sitting in her living room when high winds tore it in two. >> i watched my christmas tree and my whole entire house implode across the living room and go out to the left hand side. >> reporter: the family that lives here says that it was devastating. that the winds were strong enough to knock down a two-story brick wall that is now littering the front of their home. >> not livable. >> yep, can't live in there. >> so, you know, another place to go. >> reporter: it's an incredibly
large storm that stretches into the mid-atlantic and throughout the northeast. and it is now bringing on the bitter cold. >> we think much of the eastern half of the united states is going to be dealing with this cold, not only next week but much of the month of december. >> reporter: tonight, there's already heavy snow in rochester, buffalo and syracuse. in pittsburgh, two people were seriously hurt when their roof collapsed from the weight of the wet snow. cold rains have flooded parts of pennsylvania and delayed flights and trains. at laguardia today, the wait was five long hours. >> tried to get onto the 6:00 flight but that flight is 100% full and i can't put myself on the wait list. >> reporter: forecasters expect the rain to continue as the temperatures drop, making this an ugly winter storm. steve osunsami, abc news, georgia. >> really messy night out there. and, a fight is going on in classrooms across the country, about to spill over into congress. the debate?
what to do about childhood obesity. it is reaching the level of how many doughnuts for how many birthdays. so, who should get a say in what children eat? the house is set to vote on a bill that cafeterias across the country. but sharyn alfonsi reports that plenty of schools are already stepping in. >> reporter: mystery meat is getting makeover. if the bill passes, everything sold on school grounds from school lunches to vending machines has to meet a new higher nutritional standard. pediatricians say it can't happen soon enough. >> never before has there been a generation that's been so heavy from so early in life. >> reporter: and while some say revamping the school menu is a good first step, others argue it doesn't go far enough. students can still bring in whatever they like. >> if you parent wants to send something in, that's fine. a serving for one is about your child. a serving for 25 is about all of our children. >> reporter: mimi roth, a mother
of two, would like to see the so-called cupcake clause closed. dozens of school districts are considering it. in michigan, this principal already banned sweets for birthdays. >> you look at an average students birthday party at school, it contains about 750 calories. we have 350 students. they are calories that are really no, sir necessary. >> reporter: instead, kids get 30 minutes of extra p.e. to celebrate. lawmakers in pennsylvania are proposing guidelines that would limit sweets at parties in school. in a recent trip to the state, sarah palin mocked the measure. >> i brought dozens and dozens of cookies to these students. >> reporter: pennsylvania lawmakers say they have no plans to ban homemade sweets but did sugge suggest consolidating parties so there would be just one celebration a month.
palin called it quote, "nanny state run amok." >> who should be making decision about what you can eat at school. should it be the government or should it be the parents? it should be the parents. >> reporter: as it is written, the bill does not ban homemade sweets or bake sales. there's been a lot of discussion about. that but in the months to come, those decisions will likely be made at the state and district levels. so, brace yourself, we could be ready for a very serious food fight here because this is personal when it's about cupcakes. >> the cupcake law, they're calling it. thank you, sharyn alfonsi. and, still ahead on "world news," a reporter you know well takes us on a journey to help a young iraqi boy. he learns a lesson about happy endings and real life. and before there was "american idol," the man who brought every day singing stars into our living room. [ male announcer ] how can rice production in india affect wheat output in the u.s.,
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height of the insurgency. i helped him come here to america, but things did not work out as planned. we met in the middle of a gun fight in baghdad in 2006. >> dan. >> reporter: he was a fresh faced kid with the same name as mine. they are shooting again. >> yeah. what we can do? nothing. >> reporter: dan had learned english be watching american movies and listening to rap. and he had an agonizing story about seeing his best friend get shot. >> i see blood on the ground, friend shot. he's dead. >> we are going to take "a closer look" tonight of what it's like to grow up amid the chaos in iraq. >> reporter: when we aired dan's story, we got an enormous response, including an offer of a scholarship from thomas college, a small school in maine, which struck me as a great opportunity to totally transform this kid's life. months later, he arrived at
new york's kennedy airport, and i was incredibly excited. how do you feel? >> very happy. very excited. at the same time, very scared. >> can i help you? >> yeah, i need a whapper. >> whopper. >> whapper. >> not whapper, whopper. >> reporter: i escorted hom up to maine, his safe, snowy new home. >> oh. >> reporter: so, what do you think? >> we made it. >> we made it, dude. >> yeah, we made it. >> reporter: it looked like a hollywood happy ending. but looks can be deceiving. nine months later, i was helping dan pack up, he'd been kicked out. >> i am sad actually, because i love this place a lot. like a lot, but things didn't work out i think. >> reporter: his time here had been a disaster. school officials had overestimated his english skills. meanwhile, dan spent two semesters partying, skipping class.
this left me with a huge responsibility that i never expected. d days of desperate phone calls, trying to fix things for dan. would it make sense for me to fly him down? my fear was that if dan went back to baghdad with the insurgency still raging, he'd be killed as an american sympathizer, and it would be partly my fault. so i brought him to new york city to crash on my couch temporarily. don't you want to do something with your life? >> oh, man. >> reporter: as i dealt with dan's meltdown, i learned from mental health professionals that young refugees who come to america from war zones often act out in inappropriate ways. >> you expect me to live here normally in the united states without problems, without anything -- absolutely not. no iraqi kid in my age, bring him here, by himself, without a family, can live normally with all this freedom and stuff like that. no hell of a chance. >> reporter: after countless
meetings and phone calls, we caught a break. dan was accepted into a home for troubled teens in maine. >> if i got kicked out of this one, that's it, my life is done for good. >> reporter: but within weeks, the problems started again. including marijuana use. >> that will prove that you did smoke. >> reporter: at one point, dan simply disappeared and i spent an anxious week waiting for the phone to ring. in the end, dan was kicked out yet again. he spent the next year living on his own in boston, and doing surprisingly well. he studied for the ged, and even considered joining the u.s. army. but when both of those plans fell through, he fell into a deep funk. >> like, i've never been so depressed and so sad like i am right now. >> reporter: despite my pleading, dan decided to go home. so, two years and four months after he arrived, i took him back to the airport. >> i guess this is it.
>> reporter: in the movies, when the reporter swoops in to help his subject, there's usually a happy ending. this, however, is not a movie. and that was more than a year ago, diane. >> so much heartbreak, so much that is poignant in so many directions. i'm wondering, years distance now, what did you learn? >> reporter: i learned a lot. if i had to do it over again, and i recently had this discussion with dan, i would do it again, and dan said the same thing, interestingly, because there were really low lows but really high highs and i know have this relationship that i will never forget. >> and no one said all good things get to be easy. >> reporter: that's right. >> where is he now? >> reporter: i went to see him recently. he's back in iraq, living there. and i got the sense that he's happier back in iraq than he was here. he's with his family, he's with his friends. he's been making rap music. >> reporter: rap music? >> rap music. he's in the studio recording. and he told me is other day that he is enrolled in college to
study to be a reporter. >> oh, my. >> reporter: yes. my future competition. >> i have a feeling there are many chapters left in this story. thank you, dan harris. and you can see more of dan's story on the full half hour of "nightline" coming up tonight. and coming up, for us, a woman whose simple courage sp k sparked a rev like on this day, years ago. toly aspirin regimen. i just didn't listen until i awoke withpains in my chest. i almost lost my life. my doctor's again ordered me to take aspirin. and i do. i make sure that h does it. [ male announcer ] aspirin is ot appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen. [ mike ] i encourage everyone !to listen to the doctor. and take it seriously. [ male announcer ] learn more p about protecting your heart at iamproheart.com. to stay fit, you might also want to try lifting one of these. a unique sea salt added to over 40 campbell's condensed soups. it helps us reduce sodium, but not flavor.
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dreams. do you remember that tag line from "live styles of the rich and famous?" one of the shows created by alfred messini, who died today. he had a hard scrabble life, but as david wright reports, he turned it into solid gold. >> reporter: before "american idol" -- ♪ -- there was "star search." ♪ before music television -- ♪ -- there was "solid gold." ♪ before the "real housewives of beverly hills" -- -- there was "lifestyles of the rich and famous." >> this home has played host to kings and queens, prince and princesses. >> reporter: all of them, created by producer alfred masini, who was certainly rich, but not exactly famous. >> he was rich in love and generosity to a lot of people in the television industry. >> reporter: masini's first job, at age 10, was at a tootsie roll factory in new jersey. when he got back from the korean war, his first tv job was at cbs as a liaison with local affiliates.
his big insight was that local stations needed inexpensive programs of their own. >> he was absolutely the father of first-run syndication. >> reporter: he helped plenty of others become famous. we have "star search" to thank for britney spears, beyonce and christina aguilera, to name a few. his most lasting contribution is still on the air with its original host. >> filming was completed -- >> reporter: masini died on monday, buzz his legacy lives on, right after your local news. david wright, abc news, hollywood. >> to nose celebrating, happey hanukkah. and to everyone, good night.